New Stats Show Prime Oregon Farm Land Remains at Risk

Controversial land use laws have far-reaching impact.

Published on: Feb 7, 2014

The loss of Oregon farmland to developers continues, but the rate has been reduced s by the state's controversial land use laws.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture appraisal comes from a new survey which says the laws have prevented some reduction of crop, pasture and range areas.

"Agricultural land can't be viewed as an idle resource waiting to be converted to homes, office buildings, retail outlets and other types of development," warns ODA chief Katy Coba.  "Agriculture's survival and sustainability depends, in large part, on protecting important farmland needed for production."

Between 2007 and 2010, the inventory indicates that nearly 60,000 acres of crop land was converted to non-farm uses in Oregon, a loss of more than 1.5% of Oregon's 3.5 million acres of crop land.

Oregon is losing less farmland to development, a reduction credited in part to the states land use law.
Oregon is losing less farmland to development, a reduction credited in part to the state's land use law.

But Coba sees this is an important improvement over the loss of almost 395,000 acres of crop lands between 1982 and 1987.

"While we are still losing agricultural land in Oregon, the progression has slowed,"  says ODA land use specialist Jim Johnson.

"You can easily see when our statewide land use planning program kicked in because that's when the slowdown of ag land loss became noticeable."

Overall ag land – including ranch areas as well as range – decreased by about 20,000 acres from 2007-2010, according to the report, compared with 217,000 acres from 1982-1987.

In both time periods, the loss of crop land was largely offset by increases in pasture area and/or range.

Today, the total Oregon acreage in ag is just over 15 million acres.

"While overall agricultural land loss has slowed down quite a bit over the years, the land that we are losing the most of is in crop production that generally takes place  in  prime land – the best of the best – says Johnson.

The new survey was performed under the National Resource Inventory, a USDA program conducted by the Natural Resource Conservation Service.